Only First-Gen Kids Can Relate

All my life I’ve noticed that I have different habits or experiences than most people around me. When I want to complain or reminisce about certain things, people often have no idea what I am talking about. The only people that usually understand what I am going through are my friends. We all grew up here, but the key difference in our childhood experiences compared to others is our parents. We are all first-generation kids and our parents affected the way we grew up. My parents moved from the Caribbean to America years before I was born. Even though they are in a new country, they brought their old traditions and cultural differences with them.

Here are some things I noticed that most kids experience when they are first-generation Americans.

1. You’re expected to be a doctor or lawyer.

Courtesy: Wesley Tingey

I remember when I was nine, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. This question was not difficult for me at all because I already knew what I wanted to be. I remember saying that I wanted to draw cartoons. I thought that would be the perfect job for me because I was always drawing and wasting packs of copy paper each month. But my parents both gave me a disappointed look and asked if I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer instead. They told me that I would get to help people and be rich if I chose one of these. I honestly was a bit mad they did not support my decision, so I said I would rather be happy and had no interest in either of those jobs. My parents laughed it off thinking I would change my mind in a few years because I was too young. Each year they would ask me to check if my answer changed, and it did. In high school, I finally knew that I wanted to work with television and broadcasting. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

2. “I came to this country for you.”

If I had a dollar for every time they said this, I’d be financially stable. My parents tried to make me feel guilty by saying this, but I don’t think they left their home country just for me. They did not even have kids until they became U.S. citizens. They probably left because it was not safe, they wanted a better future, or just because they wanted to. Who knows? But I know I was not the deciding factor in their choice to immigrate or not. I am very grateful to be where I am today, but I don’t like it when someone tries to hold something against me that I could not control.

3. No dating until marriage.

Courtesy: Pinterest

Yes, you read that correctly and I was just as confused as you are. My parents refused to let me date and told me that I needed to focus on school first before I got a boyfriend. If they even saw me talking to a boy that was not a family member, I’d get to play the fun game of 200 questions. “Who is that? How do you know him? Is he smart? Is he your boyfriend?” I hated answering these questions every time a guy was just asking to cheat off my homework. I had to steer clear of all the guys in my school and only talk to them when I knew my parents weren’t around.

Courtesy: Giphy

4. No sleepovers, no exceptions.

Courtesy: Medium

I remember this issue caused a lot of fights with my parents and questions from classmates. I never understood my parents' lack of ability to trust other people besides our family. If my friends were having a sleepover, I would instantly have to turn down the invitation. I already knew my parents' answer would be “no,” and if I even asked them, I would get in trouble. So I avoided sleepovers and had to miss out on a big part of a normal childhood experience. My friends would always be so sad when I instantly rejected their invitation. Thankfully, I was not the only first-generation kid to experience this. Other kids in my class had the same reason, their parents were against sleepovers.

5. You have to be Einstein-level smart.

I have always had good grades and never had a grade lower than a B. But if I don’t have a 4.0 GPA, I must be not trying hard enough. I remember every time report cards were sent home I really did not pay them any mind. I had A’s and B’s, so I was doing well, or so I thought. When my parents saw the one B amidst the sea of A’s in my report card they would ask me why it wasn’t an A. This caused me to become obsessed with perfect grades and if I ever got a C on a test, it was the end of my life.

Courtesy: Imgflip

Aside from all the negative things, there are a lot of first-generation things I love. I will be the first in my family with a bachelor’s degree, I’m the first to live on my own during college, and I can relate with all my first-generation friends. I also love learning new things about my culture and trying different foods. Even though we have our differences,  I know my parents love me and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

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